Many Bowdoin students flock to The Little Dog Coffee Shop, a Brunswick fixture located on Maine Street, but as students return to campus for a new year, they will return to a new version of The Little Dog, complete with changes in decor, an expanded menu and extended hours on Thursdays and Fridays for “Lit Nights” and live music.
Caroline and Mason Palmatier have owned the shop since January 2019 and worked with local construction company Senecal Construction on renovations in late May and early June. Although the new owners want to maintain the community of the old Little Dog, they are also making the shop their own, starting with its interior design.
“[The Palmatiers wanted] a fresh morning feel with the color scheme, and I think they’re hoping to bring in some kind of a warm yellow tone at some point,” said Meaghan Gonsior, a manager at the shop. “Overall I think the vision for the renovation, as well as for long-term, is to create a place … that everyone feels welcome—an inclusive space where you can have a business meeting or … parents can have a playdate.”
The renovations bring a new feel to the space and are still a work in progress, added Jess Czarnecki, a barista and baker at The Little Dog.
“It’s definitely very fresh looking,” Czarnecki said. “I think a lot of people had the concern that there wouldn’t be a lot of homey-ness once it happened … but I feel like a lot of places you just have to grow into … I feel like things will come together in time [since] we’ve only been renovated since the beginning of the summer.”
In addition to the new look, the new owners are also extending hours on Thursdays and Fridays to allow for open mic nights and live music.
“From the beginning, when we talked about events, we wanted to bring in community as much as possible by having groups like [The Bowdoin Quill] or community colleges host open mics,” Gonsior said. “We felt like it would empower people in the community by giving them space and a microphone.”
Additionally, Czarnecki helped organize and host a Pride-themed open mic night August 29 and plans to host another on October 31.
“I think there’s definitely a push and an urge in Brunswick in general for there to be more inclusive queer things for people, so I’m glad that I can be a part of that,” Czarnecki said.
In addition to “Lit Nights” on Thursdays, live music programming on Friday nights features a mix of talented musicians from the Brunswick community and from Bowdoin, too. One of these musicians is Ariana Smith ’21, who played a set of her original music at The Little Dog over the summer.
“It was really cool because it was a paid gig, but also it was just really good exposure and practice for me to start sharing some of my original music and some of my original songs,” Smith said. “It was also really cool because … we kind of view people in downtown Brunswick as fixtures of the downtown scene, but people would … come in and see what was going on. It was pretty genuine and really cool.”
Smith also emphasized the value of connecting with off-campus spaces as a Bowdoin student.
“I think that oftentimes we get caught up in this Bowdoin bubble,” Smith said. “But I think having a relationship with Little Dog or having a relationship with a place outside of Bowdoin keeps you grounded and reminds students that Bowdoin is a wonderful chapter in our full lives and not necessarily our entire life.”
Gonsior hoped that The Little Dog could serve as a location for this kind of connection, both for Bowdoin students and the larger Brunswick community.
“I think the original owner has created a place that is a hub of the community,” Gonsior said. “We would just like to build off that and grow to where we are helping Brunswick thrive and helping to create connections within the community and between communities.”